Sheffield United’s transfer business to be run by committee, not just Paul Heckingbottom

Despite Sheffield United billing Paul Heckingbottom’s role as manager as being far more wide-ranging than predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic’s, the club’s transfer strategy will continue to be run by committee.

Transfers have been a bone of contention for Heckingbottom’s predecessors, with frustration at failing to get the targets he wanted in the summer of 2020 contributing to the breakdown of the relationship with Chris Wilder, and Jokanovic unable to hide his frustrations when similar things happened to him before his sacking as coach on Thursday.

Although Heckingbottom, who has recalled one of the club’s young loanees and may do so with more in January, has wider responsibilities for the football side of the club, the way transfers are done will remain unchanged, supported by the scouting networks of Belgian top-tier side Beerschot and French third division side Chateauroux.

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“The job’s too big to do all your recruiting yourself but certainly one of the roles will be in recruitment and succession planning and we’ll be relying heavily on Paul Mitchell and the team that’s already here but having a big input at the start of the process to say where are the gaps in the squad, the make-up of player we want, and then the guys will identify as many targets as possible,” explained Heckingbottom, whose first game in charge is at home to Bristol City tomorrow.

Paul Heckingbottom unveiled as the new manager of Sheffield United (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)

“Once we get the list down to a manageable amount and everyone’s happy with it, then again I can get involved.”

Blades owner Abdullah Bin Mosaad has created a network of clubs, United World, which also includes Al-Hilal United in the United Arab Emirates’ second division and Kerala United, in India’s second tier.

“I was surprised when Abdullah (Alghami, chief executive of United World) told me the other day that within United World group we had 800 full and part-time technical people. I wasn’t aware the resources were that deep,” admitted Sheffield United chairman Yusuf Giansiracusa.

Heckingbottom explained: “Across United World there’s a scouting network, whether that’s data analysts or a wider network going out to games so Paul Mitchell can share information on games we’ve seen but very much it will be individually club-led.

COMING BACK: Sheffield United's Femi Seriki waits to make his Blades debut at St James's Park last season, under the watchful gaze of then temporary first-team coach, Paul Heckingbottom Picture: Darren Staples/Sportimage

“We’ll be looking for players appropriate to us while Beerschot and Chateauroux are looking for players appropriate to them.

“There may be times where we can share information that becomes really valuable. That’s where we’ll use each other’s network.

“Where we can achieve help from anyone else across the group, we’ll look to do that. It would be foolish not to because your manpower increases, your time available increases, your connections increase, so Mitch will certainly be tapping into those opportunities.”

Femi Seriki was part of Heckingbottom’s first training session having been recalled from a loan at Beerschot which saw him play just six minutes although the teenage wing-back cannot play until the next transfer window opens. Heckingbottom confirmed the Blades will consider whether to recall others, such as Zak Brunt, Daniel Jebbison and Kacper Lopata, then.

COMMITTEE: CEO Stephen Bettis, Paul Heckingbottom, chairman Yusuf Giansiracusa and director Abdullah bin Yousef Alghamdi at a press conference to unveil Paul Heckingbottom as the new Sheffield United manager. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“Femi’s ineligible until January but he’s back in the building training with us,” confirmed Heckingbottom. “We’re trying to arrange a few friendlies for Femi.

“We review (the loans) all the time. I’ll be less involved in that now but we’ve used it very well, whether it be monthly youth loans or longer-term loans into the leagues.”